US tries to stall Palestinian statehood bid

Reuters , Sunday 4 Sep 2011

US officials are trying to avoid having to choose whether to veto Palestinian statehood, insinuating the US lacks support from the UN General Assembly

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President Barack Obama with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House, May 28, 2009

Washington has launched an effort to avoid a clash stemming from plans by Palestinians to seek recognition as a state at the United Nations, The New York Times reported on Saturday, citing senior US officials and foreign diplomats.

The Obama administration has introduced a plan to restart peace talks with Israel to try to convince Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to give up the bid to seek recognition at the annual meeting of leaders at the UN General Assembly, it said.

The administration has told Abbas it would veto any request made to the UN Security Council to make a Palestinian nation a new member, the Times said.

But it said Washington lacked support to block a vote by the Assembly to raise the status of the Palestinians to a non-voter observer state from that of a non-voting "entity," which could allow them to join many UN bodies, and pursue cases against Israel at the International Criminal Court.

Senior US officials and foreign diplomats, whom the Times did not identify, said the administration wanted to avoid having to cast a veto as well as a General Assembly vote that would leave only the United States and a few other nations opposed to Palestinian nationhood.

"If you put the alternative out there, then you've suddenly just changed the circumstances and changed the dynamic," the newspaper quoted a senior administration official as saying on Thursday. "And that's what we're trying very much to do."

With peace talks with Israel frozen, the Palestinians have vowed to seek full UN membership for a state in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The European Union has also tried to launch a resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, amid deep divisions over the proposed bid for statehood.

The Times said that while some Obama administration officials were hopeful a compromise could be reached to avoid a vote, there were plans to limit the consequences if it took place, including efforts to ensure that Israel and the Palestinians keep cooperating on security in the West Bank and on Israel's borders.

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